This piece was first published in the Hill Times on March 20, 2017.
The House Government Operations Committee deserves kudos for taking the bull by the horns in its review of Canada’s failed system for protecting government whistleblowers. This week the committee will hear from no less than four experts representing countries that have much better laws: the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Ireland.
The comparisons these experts can offer will be eye-opening, since the Canadian system simply does not protect whistleblowers from reprisals. In more than 10 years not a single truth-teller has been awarded a remedy by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal (the only body that can do so), and not a single aggressor has suffered consequences for taking reprisals.
In Canada, it’s more dangerous to kick a dog than to destroy a whistleblower’s life. If you attack a helpless animal, someone might see you. A video of the incident might go viral online, and you might face public outrage and damage to your reputation, even your career. But if you destroy a whistleblower’s life in plain sight—through bullying and harassment, unfair dismissal and blacklisting—it’s unlikely that you will face any consequences.
Even if you are reported to our Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and he decides that reprisals took place (which he rarely does) he has the power (which he almost always uses) to block the tribunal from taking any action against you.… Read the rest
Posted by DavidH on March 27, 2017
This piece first appeared in the Hill Times on February 27, 2017.
When examining the sorry track record of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner’s Office, it’s easy to overlook those primarily responsible: it was Privy Council Office (PCO) and the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), working mostly behind the scenes, who—intentionally or not—set up PSIC to fail. Here’s how it was done.
The Role of Treasury Board:
Treasury Board drafted faulty legislation
Given the wide range of serious shortcomings in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), it’s difficult to believe that the drafters intended it to work—unless they were completely oblivious of best practices and other jurisdictions’ experience.
The most glaring example of this is the absence of a ‘reverse onus’ provision. The PSDPA puts the onus on whistleblowers to prove that the actions taken against them were reprisals—an almost impossible task. Effective whistleblowing laws shift the burden of proof to the employer to show that adverse actions were not intended as reprisals. This has been well understood for literally decades—since the disastrous experience of the Merit System Protection Board (in the U.S.) in the early 1980s. Without a reverse onus, of the first 2,000 whistleblowers who submitted claims of reprisal, only four prevailed.… Read the rest
Posted by DavidH on March 11, 2017
From left to right: Mario Dion, Pierre Poilievre, Tony Clement and Wayne Wouters
Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Clerk of the Privy Council, President of Treasury Board and Pierre Poilievre need some serious schooling from University of Saskatchewan’s recent uproar over the unjust firing of a whistleblowing professor. Maybe then public servant whistleblowers who truly care about the public will be protected and not persecuted by an insular and out-of-touch senior bureaucracy.
Robert Buckingham, a tenured professor, was fired May 14, 2014 from the University of Saskatchewan. His crime: speaking out against a money-saving plan to restructure and reduce faculties and staff. Dr. Buckingham reported the usual litany of whistleblower reprisals including attacks to his credibility, management isolating him, intimidation and even an escort off campus after his dismissal.
What was unusual for Canada was the reaction. Students held mass demonstrations, politicians waded in, and academics worldwide pressured both the university and the provincial government to defend a whistleblower. Dr. Buckingham had his tenure restored the next day. The following week, the university provost, author of the letter firing Robert Buckingham, resigned. The university president was fired from her post but offered another position and a hefty severance.… Read the rest
Posted by Sean Bruyea on June 8, 2014